In March 2017, Mini Padmam, a sexagenerian in Bengaluru, was able to tick an important item off her bucket list. She wanted a ride on a Harley Davidson and this long cherished dream came true when Santosh Abraham arranged for Padmam to ride pillion on his friend Kailash Bharadwaj’s Harley.
“Older people want more than just healthcare services. We strive to improve their quality of life”, says Abraham, who is a co-founder of ElderAid, a Bengaluru-based service that serves senior citizens.
Elder Aid is one of the several enterprises that have woken up to the needs of India’s ageing population. As Indian families shrivel into nuclear modules, there is a growing interest in geriatric care, and social entrepreneurs are also stepping in as proxy families.
ElderAid customer Niranjan Acharya with Care Manager Sudhakar Meghanathan.
According to the Ministry of Statistics, Government of India, there are nearly 104 million elderly persons (aged 60 years or above) in the country. The elderly often end up all by themselves, voluntarily or by circumstance, and are vulnerable to many trappings and failings of age. The love and concern of children who may be in different cities, countries or even continents, isn’t enough when they need immediate assistance.
With old-age homes or assisted living facilities not widely accepted, socialentrepreneurs are conscious of the various needs of the elderly and offer varying services. Easyfone is an elderly-friendly mobile phone with bigger font, louder ringtones and an SOS button, which was developed by Senior World. There are elderly friendly homes with anti-skid rugs and motorised chairs designed by Beautiful Years, and finance management and other hobby classes by Silver Talkies.
ElderAid offers an all-round support system – from support during emergencies (the care worker remains till friends or family arrive), health check-ups at home, running errands to telephonic check-ins or simply dropping in for a chat.
Founded by Santosh Abraham and Dr. Vandana Nadig Nair in 2015, the idea was triggered by the refusal of Santosh’s parents to live with him. The octogenarians prefer the familiarity of their Thiruvananthapuram home and this made him aware of lacunae in services for the seniors.
“We want to help the elderly to live life fully. Whether it’s taking a wheelchair-bound client to the mall, or finding a volunteer to play the violin once a week for an erstwhile violinist who is now bedridden, we are as much about wish fulfillment as about everyday conveniences,” says Dr Nair.
“ElderAid calls us every week and asks us if we need anything,” says 72 year old retired schoolteacher Dhanalakshmi Sharath Kumar. With her only son working abroad, these calls are reassuring, she says.
ElderAid also organises the ‘Live Life Fully Mela’ to spread awareness about elderly care through fun games and activities for the entire family.